Club development the Tri-Star way is winning formula




Ruthin, North Wales

"From our point of view it's about enjoyment.  A lot of work is put into skill development, but in a fun, playful way - they have to enjoy it."  Roy Healey, Ruthin Tri-Stars Club Founder.

When Welsh Triathlon Regional Academy Coach, Roy Healey set up Ruthin Tri-Stars with the support of Sport Wales Local Authority Partnership Agreement (LAPA) funding his main aim was to provide an alternative option for youngsters in his area to get active.

Fast-forward four years and the club are now thriving with a successful talent identification scheme, hosting the next Welsh Triathlon TriStar National Triathlon Championships and, most importantly with over 100 happy and active children taking part every week.

Founder Roy, recalls:

"We wanted to provide something else for kids to do; it seemed that they either played football or rugby or went to gymnastics.  There wasn't a great deal else on offer, so I worked with the Denbighshire Sport Development Team to look at another cost effective option for the area."

That cost effective option turned into Ruthin Tri-Stars Junior Triathlon club, offering three sports in one and with a clear focus on developing skills that could be used across the board.

Roy comments:

"A lot of what we do is skill development, alongside helping them to develop endurance.  We'll go right back to correcting posture when needed.  They need the skills to move on.  But in a fun and playful way - they have to enjoy it.

"We also drive that they are part of other clubs as well, especially at elite level, to help development in that specific area and hone individual skills."

And the club now has plenty of skilled and very talented youngsters.  Ruthin Tri-Stars has supported a number of youngsters to represent their country, has 12 of its members ranked within the top five of Wales for their age group and regularly puts out a successful team at events across the country.

But it's not all about winning competitions at the club.  With more than 100 juniors on the books and an impressive track record in retaining new starters, the club have got the balance just right when it comes to those just looking to take part recreationally.

Roy summarised:

"For those who want to go further, we will support and ensure they get there.  But there are others who come every week for just for the fitness, social and fun side of things and we work hard to ensure these kids keep coming and stay enjoying."

On the back of their own success, Ruthin Tri-Stars have also helped two other clubs within North East Wales get off with a headstart.  Here's a peep at their top tips for developing a club, whatever the sport or activity.


Roy's Top Tips

Make it enjoyable

Roy was first to state that their focus was very much on developing skills, but that this was done in a fun and playful way, so that every child who came could enjoy what they were doing.

Be inclusive

Ruthin Tri-Stars have a very successful system for spotting and developing talent.  However they also put a lot of effort into ensuring that their offer is right for those who simply want to take part for fun. 

"We're quite unique, we have three sports and none of which require just the best of the group being picked into the team.  The focus is simply on everyone taking part at their own level and enjoying it."

This may be a unique position, but the concept can certainly be stretched across the board.

Gain support from parents

"You can't do it all on your own" - Roy made it his mission to gain the support of parents both to support the running of the club as volunteers and also so they could see the benefit that taking part offered.

"We talked to parents, let them know our plans, let them sit in on sessions and asked them to come on our journey.  We gained their trust and now have volunteers to support us."

Get the coaching right

"We have brilliant coaches, male and female that keep our session enjoyable while really developing the youngsters." 

Ruthin Tri-Stars have taken advantage of Community Chest grants from Sport Wales to support the development and qualification of their coaches.  They also work closely with other triathlon clubs in the area to build a coaching network where ideas and best practice are shared.

Ask for advice

Roy had connections with the national governing body, Welsh Triathlon, but he strongly advises approaching NGBs and other clubs within the region for support in developing and setting up.

Keep the prices low

Ruthin Tri-Stars initially started with the support of Sport Wales funding, but they are also smart in sourcing other available funding and savvy in hiring facilities.  This allows them to keep prices low, meaning that the club is accessible to more children.

"At the very beginning we worked out what our break-even price would need to be.  We review this to ensure we don't get into trouble."

Boost your profile & generate income wherever possible

Ruthin Tri-Stars hosts four triathlon events a year not only helping to boost their profile within the sport but also to generate income, which again keeps the costs down for the youngsters.

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